Nov 29, 2010

Re Visioning

I used to be a fly by the seat of my pants writer gal. When I let myself go is when my creative process truly engages and my work becomes infiltrated with inspiration. I can not work out plot problems / issues by thought alone. I have to write. Only then do I see it won't work or will or come up with something better. My characters will tell me who they are and I get more clarity about them. I do have general ideas about them, but the specifics do not come to life until I write. I have a plot worked out. I have to know where I'm going to end before I start and I usually have major plot points along the way I want to hit. I have to have a goal I'm writing toward. Where I have trouble planning ahead is the more minute detail and the happenings between the points. Those do not come to me unless I am writing.

So, this free-wheeling writing style has to fit into my process. It fits in perfect during the first draft. I realized my first drafts have to go much faster and I need to give up the need for perfection during the initial writing phase. [we'll see how this goes when I start the third novel] Perfection comes in during revision.

I used some organization when doing the revision for the first novel. It is a complicated story, so it was necessary. Then over the last few months, I've learned I need to be even more organized. The same needs to be done for my short stories.

I purchase a fat, segmented blank travel journal. I love journals. This is the first one that is actually organized. It helps. As now I can find what I'm looking for.

I have a section for setting and world building. I draw out my solar systems and universe. I write a character study for all the major characters and the pivotal minor ones. When I do this at the revision stage instead of the beginning, I come up with further connections for my characters, which I never would have seen at the draft stage. I can see them now as I know the story and the plot.

Then I have another section for riffs. Riffs are letting myself write without filter or censor from any source. For each chapter there are different things I want to riff about. Sometimes it is character. Sometimes action or setting. These help me enrich the story and create emphasis, mood and emotion where I want them. The whole riff will not make it into a chapter. I edit down to the best and most essential. All this background work makes the story better.

The character studies make even minor characters more three dimensional. Everyone has a history. Everyone has a goal. It's not all going to make it into the novel, but me knowing this information will make my word choices juicier and the scenes more important and interesting.

I have pictures I gathered off the internet during the first draft which I used to inspire characters and setting. I have those organized in a folder for reference and I keep those on the computer. I will look at them before starting a chapter or character study or description. There's often something moody about the images I pick. It's often the mood I want to capture on the written page. I used art as a writing prompt when searching for something to write about. So, it makes sense to me that art remains part of my creative process.

Besides the works of art and notebook, I started doing chapter sheets with the last novel. I color code them with post-it tabs as to whether the chapter impacts the main plot or a subplot - different colors tell me which one. The sheets at a glance tell me chapter number, who's point of view [pov], overall mood, place, scene, characters, plot impact, subplots, what my goal of the chapter is and what the scene question is.

This time I am also sticking post-its to my wall. They start with the story question - to keep me on track, tell me what the chapter scene is, what the question is, maps the conflicts & points to cover and tells me how to end the chapter. It's a quick & visual chapter outline.

Tip - generic post-its do not stick so well. So, I saved no money. I asked Santa for a magnetic board one can also stick pushpins into. And post-its. That's my most-wanted x-mas gift. I'm so exciting. Although, I wouldn't complain about jewels none. :D I could also use pens, Santa. And a ream of paper. The one I bought last year is almost gone. Could probably use an ink cartridge for the printer, too. Hmmm, go to OfficeMax, Santa. Then the jeweler downtown.

There is a lot of overlap with the chapter sheets and the post-its. But I've come to realize, I'm a tactile and visual person. Writing these planning and organizing tools out is now part of my process. It helps me think. I like being able to look at my post-it wall for a quick reference then refer to the notebook or chapter sheets for more detail.

Does this mean, this is what you should do? No. We're all different. The process will be different for everyone. How to best organize is individual. However, at some point I've come to believe planning and organization are a must.

I am a reluctant convert, but convert I now am.

Yes, this means revisions on novel#2 have finally begun. My break was longer than anticipated, but I gathered a lot of knowledge these past few months which will make this novel all the better.

How do you organize? What are your favorite methods?

Nov 26, 2010

Craze's Stopover and Return of the PC

Mysteriously, when I got back from the east coast earlier this week, I turned on my PC and it connected to the internet for the first time in months. Hooooo! Although the netbook performed admirably as an alternative, I continuously missed the speed of this beast. Thank you Wrongway [my computer's name] for getting with the program and finding your way back to cyberspace.

Why did I name it Wrongway? Well, when Bucky [previous computer] committed suicide by setting itself on fire, Husband ordered me a new computer that was supposed to ship overnight. It ended up in Ohio then Oklahoma then Seattle before getting to Oregon. ??? Thus, I dubbed it Wrongway. Plus, it came with Vista on it, which was all wrong. I made Husband wipe it within 10 minutes and install XP. I'm glad Windows 7 does not have the diva problems Vista did. Although, I've found other features of XP missing from 7 that I missed. And vice versa. I guess I can have the best of both worlds by leaving the beast XP and the netbook Windows 7.

Onto more creative topics ....

Retta Cat made a beautiful original art piece for me several weeks ago for my short story, Stopover at the Backworlds' Edge.

Craze, Meelo and the Waterbreather on Pardeep Station.

Isn't it purty? I love it so much, I hung it on my wall of inspiration above my computer.

Then my video genius, Kimberly Nicole, used it in another fantastic story trailer. You can see more of her work here:

There are new articles up on my website, too, under:

Discovery, Kepler's Search for Habitable Planets

Writers Desk, Plan It or No

The Scoop, Literary Aha

Stop by. Vote for which planet you'd like to visit and add to the discussion, too, while you're there.

Have anything you'd like to share / crow about? Feel free to leave your link in the comments. :) Enjoy the weekend. We're supposed to get above freezing here at last. I'm very excited about it.

Nov 23, 2010

High Flying Wi Fi to the Arctic

I am writing this on my flight from Newark to Salt Lake City. From there I supposedly catch my flight to Central Oregon. Weather reports there are not good, so I'm not sure whether I will make it home or not. Seems I picked the worst day to travel on. Although in the airport, the TV's claimed they start the patdowns at security check in tomorrow. So, I'm glad I missed that. Who wouldn't be? Maybe if one is horny it's a fun addition to the flying experience, but I'm thinking most folks are thinking 'not so much'. Thank you underwear bomber dude for this bit of holiday cheer.

Now it's frozen Tuesday. Currently 19 in Bend..
So, I made my short connection in Salt Lake City. I had never been there before. What a beautiful city. Wish it was lighter out so I could see more of it. It was ringed by these white behemoths. Really nice eye candy.

We had a rough landing in Redmond, which resulted in us all clapping wildly for the pilot's skill when we came to a stop. The descent was very choppy. I don't like landings anyway, so I was not liking this one at all in the snow and ice. But we made it.

They asked people to get off the flight at Salt Lake so we could be diverted to Eugene if necessary - a fuel thing. I'm very glad we weren't diverted to Eugene. Who knows when I'd get home from there then. Wasn't going to ask Husband to drive over the Cascades in that winter storm. It was bad enough at our elevation. Winter is all about elevation in these parts.

It was wonderful to see Husband after two weeks and my kitty girls. They're happy I'm home. But I'm also glad that this writing career afforded me the flexibility to be where I was needed.

I didn't really get any writing done. I wrote some snippets on my flight out to Newark, but nothing since.

I had to go out in the frigid wasteland to pick up the fresh, organic turkey from Whole Foods I ordered online last week. Luckily it's just straight down the road a few blocks. There's a Safeway there, too. So, I provisioned us up. It can snow and bluster all it wants now. We're good. The cats are good. Although, I forgot to check the TP supplies.

It was 65 degrees when I left New Jersey on Tuesday.
This is a shot of Central Park in NYC I took
on Saturday. There are pics from the Met coming.

It was in the 20's when I landed in Redmond
last night. The snow is not real deep. It's not
the problem, it's the icy roads. We'll be
hitting below zero tonight. Brrrrr!
There is a surreal beauty in winter when
the sun hits the snowy trees just
right. Glad I don't have to go out again despite
forgetting something on my list. I'll make do.

This beauty is not fun to drive in, however.

Moon study. My internal clock is all screwed up. I totally adjusted to East coast time. I got in late Pacific time last night, but had trouble sleeping. I was still traveling and composing grocery lists. So, I was up early despite my restless night. The moon hung bright in the breaking day, so I snapped some pics. It's been awhile since I've posted moon pics.

Almost full moon among the snowy trees at daybreak.
A closer view.

As long as I'm inside, I don't feel the cold. All of you in the Oregon Arctic, stay warm and safe. Those of you elsewhere enjoying balmier weather, don't tell me about it.

It was great to hear what you've all been up to the other day. I will now go peruse blogs in an attempt to catch up.

Happy Thanksgiving to the American crowd. I'll be cooking all day tomorrow.

Nov 19, 2010


I will be back next week ... sort of. I have a lot to catch up on. Then there is a holiday. Been touching base with some of you here and there.

Haven't gotten any writing done. Some snippets on the trip out here. Maybe some on the way back. Planes and airports are rather dull. Although, great places to people watch.

Hope all is well with everybody. What have you been up to? Any progress to crow about?

Nov 17, 2010

Where the Antelope Play

East of Pine Mountain heading out Highway 20. The scenery is awesome. Humanity is desolate. Barely there. Wide open spaces. We could see for over 50 miles on a beautiful, cloudless day.

Better stop off in Brothers. Not another rest stop for quite awhile. Riley. About 50 miles from Brothers.

Click on any photo for a larger view.

Brothers, OR

History of Brothers, OR - just east of Pine Mountain

Heading east from Brothers. Wild vistas with no sign of
humanity. No power lines. No phone lines. Aaaaah.
Herd of antelope. Riley, OR
More antelope

I was very excited to see the antelope. I've never really seen them before. What have you seen lately which has excited you?

Nov 11, 2010

I have a post scheduled to go off next week. Otherwise, I am offline due to a family emergency.

So, do not take my silence as a snub.

M. Pax

Nov 9, 2010

Out of Touch

I have a couple more posts scheduled to go off - tomorrow and one next week. Otherwise, I will be offline.

My family needs me back east. I will be staying as long as wanted / needed. So, do not take my silence as a snub.

M. Pax

Nov 8, 2010

Paulann Petersen and Showing Blue Moons

It was a very lovely literary weekend here in Bend, OR. Thanks to the hard work of the folks who put on The Nature of Words  literary festival. This was the 6th year for the event and my third year attending.

The first year, I attended a class given by Ursula K. Le Guinn. Wonderful as she confirmed my suspicion that I am indeed a writer. Last year I attended a workshop with Jane Kirkpatrick on history, research and writing, which was a real pleasure. History and research are fun for me. She is a fabulous lady who I enjoyed meeting and learning from. I also attended 2nd Sunday for the first time ever last year. I chickened out on reading last November, but went back in the following months and got over my lack of courage.

This year I attended a workshop with Hilary Jordon on showing not telling - more on that in a bit. And I attended 2nd Sunday. We were graced by Paulann Peterson, Oregon's poet laureate, reading. Wow. What a treat to hear her read. Want to open your mind and soul? Read some of her work and if you get the chance, hear her read. Her stuff on cosmology really spoke to me. Shocker, huh?

All my practice all these months paid off as I read my best ever in front of the biggest audience ever. I read my unpublished flash fiction piece, Blue Moon. It's a fantasy about a woman in France weaving for her lost love. Yes, under a blue moon. I may have mangled some of the French I infused into the piece, but I had the pacing down, inunciation, volume and inflection. FYI a blue moon is a second full moon in the same month. It happens about every 2.5-3 years.

Poetry is a great exercise in showing not telling. Honest. I don't write it much in its pure form any more, but I sure do draw from it in the revision process of my writing. It's a way of describing something in a non-straightforward way. It's a way of painting a portrait and character which invests the reader into the tale.

So here's a couple of exercises to connect yourself with your characters on a deeper level. What you end up using in your final work is up to you.

1.  What are three adjectives that most define your character? [One phyisical attribute and 2 traits]. Describe your character without ever using those adjectives or any others. Draw a portrait of your character that conveys those traits without ever saying them.

2.  Describe your character's room / office / personal space. Again using three adjectives that describe your character. How can you use your character's space to define those attributes without ever saying them? Pretend you are an outside observer who has never met your character. Draw no conclusions about your room or character in the description.

When your character confronts something powerful in which he/she should have a powerful reaction, what a perfect place to show and not tell. To immerse your reader into the character's world and emotions.

It's a powerful tool in the writer's arsenal. A great one to practice and perfect.

How was your weekend? How are your goals coming along?

Nov 5, 2010

Show Me a Blue Moon

This weekend is the Nature of Words literary conference here in Bend. I'm signed up for a workshop Saturday morning on showing not telling. I think I get this concept, but it never hurts to keep an open mind and keep learning. It's given by novelist Hilary Jordan.

2nd Sunday is the first Sunday this month to coincide with Nature of Words. I'll be reading Blue Moon in front of a larger crowd than usual. The 2nd Sunday program starts at 11:00 a.m. Bend Public Library in the Brooks Room.

For more on Blue Moon, see:

What are your plans this weekend?

How about a screen capture to caption for your entertainment pleasure?

"Wilma, I love chicken. I'm obsessed with chicken."

"I know, dahling."

Nov 3, 2010

Giant Aliens in the Crack

Because we are trained to easily recognize faces - we search for our own kind - we tend to see faces in a lot of things. Sometimes they are quite fantastic. Here are some of the creatures I met at Crack in the Ground.

Two giants? Just left of center.
Spirit or monster?
Do you see the slope of the brow?
The darker part - looks like an old man's face

Hint. The crack running through the
center of the photo is the mouth.

Moss Monster

Temple dog or a dragon?
What do you see?

As fun as clouds. Certainly a wondrous place to pique anyone's imagination.

Nov 1, 2010

Keep it Moving Forward

It's easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees whether in the middle of a WIP [work in progress], or in the middle of the road to attaining end goals. Between the mileposts we sometimes get lost. Or frustrated. Or both.

I've learned it's fine to muddle through a first draft, but then I must come back and do the prep work - outlines and the like - so I can focus the raw material into something better. At some point organization and a plan has to come in. I used to run away at the thought. Fearing to stymie my creativity. But funneling my creation into planned directions makes for a much better end result. My best plotting is done in the midst of writing. I understand brilliant flashes of inspiration only come to me while writing. So, I must learn to let myself fly on the first draft [getting it done much faster] then putting most of the work into the later revision. That's where all the prep work will happen for me. This plan is made based upon knowing myself. Know yourself and plan accordingly to accommodate strengths and weaknesses.

Signs will come. If you keep submitting and keep working, they will come. I advanced from 'Dear Writer' to 'Dear Mary' then onto, 'submit again'. Now I've gotten two 'revise and resubmits' this month. Progress.

Take any feedback as a gift, because it is. Especially if it comes from editors or other writers or avid readers. If someone takes the time to give you some, it is probably because they see something promising to nurture. That's good news not bad.

Whatever your natural gift, it is folly to think it doesn't need honing. Between the online aspiring author community, workshops, my writers guild and critique group, I have planned in forward movement. By keeping an open mind, I keep growing and improving.

The workshop I attended mid-October with Elizabeth Lyon gave me several ahas. Ahas keep me moving forward.

As a result, I've been reading Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, and Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. Both very useful tools if you haven't read them. Using this new learning in my 'revise and resubmits'. Will also use it in the revision of my second novel. Sometime in the future, on the first, too.

Determination and tenacity count. Persistance counts. Keep plugging away and build in forward momentum. Where there's a will there's a way. Be willing to keep your mind open and keep honing. And be aware many published authors never sold their first novel, or their 5th. Some did not find success until #9 or later. I find solace in that. Hope you do, too.

What have you been doing to move forward?